Futile exercise

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They run from their problems
like Olympic sprinters going for Gold.
Powerful, determined.

They veer suddenly from difficult conversations
like gazelles avoiding a predator.
Leaping from conflict.

They pursue their insipid dreams
like marathon runners.
Deliberate, methodical.

But all roads lead to pain and suffering.
Problems catch up, difficult conversations find short-cuts
and dreams are pacemakers, always just out of reach.

Unlike broken bones, broken souls cannot be easily fixed.
The x-ray shows nothing is wrong
but they know that something needs mending.

©2018 Seetha Dodd

Anchors and chocolate sprinkles

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Billy Collins, the American poet, said that “the trouble with poetry is that it encourages the writing of more poetry.” It is never ending, he says, until “we have compared everything in the world to everything else in the world.”¹

He then proceeds, with his delightfully witty style, to illustrate the use of comparison:
“Poetry fills me with joy
and I rise like a feather in the wind.
Poetry fills me with sorrow
and I sink like a chain flung from a bridge.”

Comparisons bring the words to life. They add imagery to the emotion. Rising like a feather in the wind conjures up feelings of floating, of lightness of being and of bliss, whereas sinking like a chain flung from a bridge paints a dreary picture of desperation and hopelessness.

Poetry is filled with two key types of comparisons: similes and metaphors. I am not always 100% sure of the difference. Instead of having to Google it every time, I tried to find an easier way of remembering, and found it in my music playlists.

Simile: “My life is like an open highway” – Bon Jovi
Metaphor: “Life is a highway” – Tom Cochrane

In other words: Metaphors are the anchors of poetry that hold everything together, they are the life-blood of the poet running through the page. They are not like anything, they just are. Adding similes to a poem, however, is like adding chocolate sprinkles to a warm, milky drink.

Some of the most famous poems ever written are filled with anchors and chocolate sprinkles. Scottish poet Robert Burns declares that his love is “like a red, red rose that’s newly sprung in June.” Shakespeare, poet of poets, in Sonnet 97 laments: “How like a winter hath my absence been from thee.” Emily Dickinson beautifully describes hope as “the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words.” And what about this from Kahlil Gibran, Master of the Profound: “Trees are poems the earth writes upon the sky, We fell them down and turn them into paper, That we may record our emptiness.” Wow, and Ouch.

In music, anchors and chocolate sprinkles are also abundant. I found one of my favourite pieces of imagery by accident, in Al Stewart’s The Year of the Cat: “She comes out of the sun in a silk dress running/ Like a watercolour in the rain.” Vivid, beautiful and creates a masterpiece in your head. 42 years after that song was released, Vance Joy’s Take Your Time echoes the sentiment in a subtle, less chocolate sprinkle-y way: “I’ll admit I never saw you coming/ Now I see your colours running.”

And back to Billy Collins. His poem Divorce, is the type of writing I admire – saying so much in so few words, crafting a whole story through the tightly weaved lines of a poem, calling upon the reader’s imagination to bring it (even more) to life:

“Once, two spoons in bed,
now tined forks
across a granite table
and the knives they have hired.”

This is poetry with depth, humour and style. Reading it is like climbing into a warm, scented bath, cold glass of champagne in hand. It is sometimes like swimming in the sea, making surprising discoveries, occasionally coming up for air and dreaming about the magic you want to create with your own chocolate sprinkles.

©2018 Seetha Dodd

¹The Trouble With Poetry, Billy Collins

The Key

make a wish

“People disappoint, so set your expectations low,”
A weary soul once told me this, many moons ago.

But I was young and hopeful, so I thought I’d take a chance
And strode down Optimism Street without a second glance.

The path was rough, uneven, not at all like I had thought;
The people, dark and jaded, seemed unhappy with their lot.

Kindness always wins. I’ll keep my expectations high.
“But people disappoint,” the world said with a wistful sigh.

The further down the path I went, the more Heartache I found
And every time I tried to rise, Truth pulled me to the ground.

What’s the point? I asked the world, of trying to be true?
The world didn’t answer, it was disappointed too.

Then I met a woman with a shawl and shining eyes;
She took me to a tiny shack that she called ‘Paradise’.

She asked me why I looked so sad; I told her of my woe
That Happiness had flown away not too long ago:

I had it once, I held it tight, so tight it could not breathe.
And then I put it in a cage and begged it not to leave.

When I was out exploring, one dark and jaded day,
Someone opened up the cage and let it fly away.

I tried so hard to lock it up, to keep it safe, you see.
“Oh, my dear,” she said, “but then you gave away the key.”

People disappoint, I said, It’s no use being kind.
Every time I look for Hope, it’s Misery I find.

With shining eyes she looked straight through my dark and jaded heart;
She took my hand and led me all the way back to the start.

“Happiness,” she said, “is waiting for you every day.
But first let me show you what’s been standing in your way.”

She handed me a mirror; I was horrified to see
The one who disappointed most, staring back at me.

©2018 Seetha Dodd

Shadow Play

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The stage is set
and behind the screen
the puppets are poised,
shadows waiting to play.

On the other side
the audience is ready
to watch the dance
of the puppets at play.

The manipulation begins.
Dance by the rules.
A firm flick of the wrist.
Puppets forced to play.

The audience claps
at the beautiful show
while the puppets are trapped
in this shadow play.

Perhaps one day
the screens will come down,
we cross into the realm
of the shadows at play.

Shatter the safety of illusion
of what is seen and not seen
but for now it remains
just shadow play. 

©2018 Seetha Dodd

110%

I gave it 110% he said
and in that one, small, quantifiable statement
there was a palpable loss of credibility.

What is 110% effort?
How can we give more than everything we have?
Was he one whole person or an extended being with superhuman capacity?

Some economist said it means overdrawing on your account of effort.
A one-off push of more than you have
then you have nothing left, or less than nothing.

But where does it stop?
Someone will give 150% and another 1000%
I tried so hard I gave a million percent.

One hundred percent!
100% is the whole, entire amount.
Any more exists in growth, money back guarantees or over-zealous home loans.

Not in effort.
If we all gave 100%
I think that would suffice.

©2018 Seetha Dodd

The Shift

(Or The Fix, Part 2)

Window to the soul

You can’t:
Dig yourself out of a bottomless hole
Un-feel what once ignited your soul
Un-deal a card from your poker hand
Or breathe when your head is buried in sand.

But you can:
Weather the storm with a dance in the rain
Allow raw emotion to course through your veins
Accept that your power exists in today
Believe that your heart and your soul know the way.

©2018 Seetha Dodd